COVID-19 has caused retailers across the globe to shift to a heavier focus on digital sales. Lockdown restrictions may have eased, but the country is starting to see a resurgence of COVID cases. Small and local businesses have found ways to balance in-person sales with online throughout this year. But what happens when the busiest shopping day of the year rolls around during a pandemic?
There are a few marketing tactics that can be used to adapt to the pandemic and keep customers excited and ready to do business with you. Black Friday and the holiday season in general is something businesses don’t want to miss out on. And in a year that has been financially straining, these sales could be more important than ever.
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Most big box retail businesses like amazon and best buy and walmart are opting to host a sort of “black friday month” this year. They have planned out exclusive sales that either last the entire month, or have flash sales sprinkled throughout the month.
A large number of retailers began their holiday season of discounts before Halloween even arrived. If you’re waiting until that usual last week of November, you’ll be way behind. Let customers know that your exclusive holiday discounts are already available and will be throughout the month.
Starting sales early is a great idea for small businesses, as it means customers won’t feel the need to all show up at your store at the same time. People are selective about when they go out this year, so if you have multiple dates in which customers can get access to your sales, your chances of getting their business go up.
Build a system for customer safety
Customers need to know that you’re being conscious of their safety during the holiday season. One thing you can do to make this clear is by offering appointment visits to your business. Naturally people will be hesitant to enter a store or office if they don’t know how many other customers might be there when they arrive.
An appointment-only operation has the benefit of ensuring customer safety, while also making customers feel like they are being catered to specifically. A customer that came out to a business at a preset appointment is more likely to spend money than if they casually strolled into your building on a whim. You’re enabling a level of commitment. Make your customers think “well I bothered making an appointment, it would be a waste to leave without buying something.”
People need to also know that you are enforcing policies that will keep everyone safe. Post signs out front that clearly explain the rules for entering the establishment and be upfront about things like your cleaning procedures and social distancing systems. And most importantly, find a way to enforce whatever mask mandates that apply to your location.
Offer up exclusive digital discounts
It would also be wise to lean into online-exclusive offers this year. Encourage customers to give you their business through digital sales, and you’ll be opening up future business opportunities even when the world starts returning to normal.
Digital sales are also a great way to encourage financially hurting customers to opt for payment plans. These types of plans are becoming more and more commonplace for customers of any financial background.
Making the online purchasing experience easy is also very important in 2020 and beyond. Set your website up with payment systems like Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, Amazon Pay, etc.
You want to open the door for those less familiar with online purchasing systems. And as digital privacy becomes more and more important to consumers, you’ll want to avoid asking them to enter their credit card numbers into yet another website form. Systems like those mentioned above have safety nets for those who are concerned.
These systems can also be utilized for safer contactless in-store payment.
Get the word out through email
In years past, the strategy for informing customers about your holiday sales would be to plaster signs along your storefront. This is obviously different for each type of business, particularly those that don’t have a storefront and for businesses that sell services without the need for in-person stores and salespeople. But email messaging has already taken over for all kinds of businesses and is a key factor in pandemic marketing.
Getting people on board with your email marketing and keeping them engaged is your starting point, and you’ve hopefully been working on this over the recent years already. But once those emails are rolling into your customer’s inboxes, you need to make sure you are being transparent this season.
Being empathetic to your customers safety concerns is equally important in your emails as it is in your operational decisions. Truly showing customers that you’re caring for them means giving up something on your end. You can offer free shipping with the messaging of “we’ll throw in free shipping so you can stay safe at home and avoid the black friday crowds this year.”
Be empathetic in your marketing messaging
The perfect messaging balance in holiday 2020 will come from showing that you care about the customer’s finances and experiences. This doesn’t necessarily mean directly addressing COVID-19, but try to shift the message away from excitement and overjoyous hype.
Think carefully about tonality and show sensitivity to how your product or service fits into the lives of customers living in a pandemic. Naturally, a direction to go with this is touting the affordable prices you’re offering. Let customers know that you’re bringing prices down for them out of respect for the mutual struggle that both customers and businesses are dealing with this year.
One way to avoid sounding salesy is to focus on informing customers. For example, if you’re in the business of selling office furniture, don’t point customers directly to product pages on your website. Instead, write a blog that helps them identify the right office chair for their home setup. Identify different issues that people might be individually facing in 2020.
Don’t just scream “buy now!” at your clientele, offer to help them first. Your discounts will look even more attractive when the customer knows you’ve helped them find their exact, right product or service.